Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Love is Strange
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language
Release Date:
08/22/2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

The November Man
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Release Date:
August 27, 2014

 

Draft Day
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references
Release Date:
April 11, 2014

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Blended
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Release Date:
May 23, 2014

Coach Carter

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

We all love movies about underdog teams that come from behind because they (1) learn the importance of teamwork, (2) learn the importance of discipline and of respect for themselves and each other, (3) are galvanized by an inspiring leader, or, even better, (4) all of the above.

This movie, based on a true story, takes it a step further. Coach Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson), a star athlete himself in an inner-city California high school returns to coach the team. He insists that each member of the team sign a contract that includes wearing jacket and tie on game days, attending all classes and sitting in the front row in each one, and maintaining a higher grade point average than the minimum required for participation in sports. He wanted more for the young men than a winning season. Coach Carter wanted them to have a winning life, and that means that they had to have grades that would get them into college. In his view, student athletes were students first, athletes second.

This seems simple and straightforward enough unless you are a sports fan. Or unless you are the kind of person who calls himself a “realist” and thinks these kids are not worth trying to save. Their principal falls into that category. She figures that they are not going to graduate anyway, so the best she can do is give them one great experience they can hold onto for the rest of their lives. But Coach Carter wants more. And he wants them to want more.

He brings them together as a team, turning them from playas into players.

Many of the team members are struggling with other pressures, from a pregnant girlfriend (played by pop star Ashanti) to the money and excitement of street crime. Carter shows them that the biggest obstacle is their own fear of trying for more than they have. “Starting today, you will act like winners, play like winners, and, most of all, you will be winners.”

Some of the players drop out. They have no interest in school or rules. But some stay in, and the team begins to win. In most movies, there would be one setback as they lose to their cross-town rivals (the kids from the snooty school), and then they would pull themselves together for a rousing defeat of that same team for the state championship. But this movie is different.

On January 4, 1999, the players arrived at the gym to find it padlocked. Carter discovered that they were not living up to their contracts. While a few were attending class and meeting or exceeding the required grade point average, most were not. And Carter would not let them play until all of them were caught up with their schoolwork and made good on all of their promises.

The response by the school and the parents was outrage. Carter was threatened and a brick was thrown through his store window. It became a national news story and the focus of debate.

For Carter, this was not about a winning season. It was about a winning life. He wanted his team to qualify for college scholarships. And he wanted them to learn discipline, teamwork, and self-respect.

Jackson is terrific, as always, and his talent to mesmerize an audience makes him a great choice to play a coach who can give hope to people who gave up a long time ago. Just the way he says, “Sir,” insisting and inspiring his team to call him “Sir” as well, tells you everything about his character and his relationship to the players. The young cast members are more sure of themselves shooting hoops than they are showing emotion, but Jackson holds the screen so well that he gives them extra focus and presence.

Parents should know that the film has some mature material for a PG-13, including an out of wedlock teen pregnancy and a discussion of abortion. There is some strong language, but the movie includes a very worthwhile discussion of the n-word and whether it is appropriate for African-Americans to use a word that would make them angry if used by a white person. The film is frank about the kinds of violence inner-city neighborhoods are subjected to, including shooting. A character is killed. There is some material relating to drug-dealing.

Families who see this film should talk about the movie’s focus on the use of language and dress to show respect. They might want to learn about the real Coach Carter, who was honored by being asked to carry the Olympic flame. Why did Carter’s son want to transfer? All families should talk about the passage quoted from Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela): “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy other movies about inspirational teachers, from To Sir with Love and Up the Down Staircase to Hoosiers, Lean on Me and Stand and Deliver, and other movies about high school sports teams like Remember the Titans and Friday Night Lights. And every family should watch the brilliant documentary, Hoop Dreams, the story of two high school students from the poorest neighborhood whose skill on the basketball court leads to new opportunities and tough choices.

Racing Stripes

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

A zebra who thinks he is a racehorse takes on the thoroughbreds in the best live action talking-animal movie since the beloved Babe.

Horse trainer turned farmer Nolan Walsh (Bruce Greenwood) finds a baby zebra and brings him home. For his daughter, Channing (Hayden Panittiere), it is love at first sight. She cares for the little zebra tenderly and when we pick up the story three years later, Stripes is a cherished part of the farm family.

But Stripes (voice of Frankie Muniz), who has never seen another zebra, thinks he is a racehorse, like the beautiful thoroughbreds he sees at the race course next door, owned by snooty Carla (the acid-voiced Wendie Malick).

His friends on the farm include an experienced pony named Tucker (voice of Dustin Hoffman), a goat (voice of Whoopi Goldberg), a pelican far from the sea (voice of Joe Pantalino) named Goose, and two flies, Scuzz (voice of David Spade) and Buzz (voice of Steve Harvey). The race horses jeer at him, but Stripes trains by trying to outrun the mail truck and dreams of winning a real race. A sympathetic filly named Sandy (voice of Mandy Moore) provides encouragement. The animals find a way to let Channing know that Stripes is fast enough to race and wants to ride him, but Nolan, whose wife died in a racing accident, does not want Channing to compete.

The human performers are just fine, especially the underrated Greenwood. He is too often relegated to bad-guy roles (Double Jeopardy), but he shows real warmth and screen presence here. Up-and-coming young Panittiere (A Bug’s Life, Remember the Titans) makes us believe in her devotion to her father and the dream of racing she shares with Stripes. But the movie is all about the animals and the voice talents and computer-aided “acting” make the characters very real and very appealing. The humor may overdo the doo-doo, but there are sweet and funny moments as Stripes tries to follow his dream and learns the importance of friends.

Parents should know that the movie has some mild language including insults like “idiot,” “blow sunshine up your tail,” and “kick your butt.” A bad word is amusingly cut off by an animal’s “baaa.” There is some crude humor, much of it involving animal poop (which most children will find very funny). An animal parent is very harsh to his child. There is a scary fall and some off-camera violence, but no one is hurt. Some viewers may be concerned about the storyline concerning the death of Channing’s mother in a racing accident.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Stripes was so unhappy to find out he was not a horse. Why did Clara and Nolan have different ideas about what was important? Why do some people think “different is scary?” What does it mean to say “You can put your boots in the oven but that doesn’t make them biscuits?” What made Nolan change his mind about letting Channing race? They should also talk about the importance of both skill and discipline, and both ability and heart. What can you tell about the way families can resolve differences by the way Nolan and Channing talk to each other?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Babe, Milo and Otis, Fly Away Home, Charlotte’s Web, and the two greatest horse movies of all time, National Velvet and The Black Stallion.

Are We There Yet?

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:2005

Robert Benchley once wrote, “There are two kinds of travel, first class and with children.” But the longest, naggiest, car-sickiest travel with children cannot be any more tedious than this weak and dragged-out generic fluff that wastes the talents of four performers who should know better.

There are about three good minutes of material in this film, all of which appear in the trailer. To put it in terms appropriate for the subject matter, the film has some long, dull stretches between rest stops. The movie is not as amusing as a good game of license plate bingo.

Ice Cube plays Nick, a playa who thinks his life is mighty fine until he catches a look at the luscious Suzanne (Nia Long), who works across the street from his Portland, Oregon sports memorabilia shop. He tries to resist when he finds out that she has two children, but when he rescues her on a rainy night after her car breaks down and she knows the stats on his favorite player, Satchel Paige, he’s a goner. Even though he does not like children, he will do anything to get close to her.

Suzanne needs someone to take her children to Vancouver on New Year’s Eve, and after they get into trouble at the airport and miss the train, Nick has to drive them in his beloved and pristine new SUV. When I say you know where this is going, I don’t mean Vancouver.

Yes, everything goes wrong, from an encounter with a kick-boxing deer to projectile vomit. And those are the funny parts, or they are supposed to be, anyway.

Even worse are the touching parts, or the parts that are supposed to be. Nick and the kids have to find some way to like each other, right? Isn’t that the whole point of a road movie, that point at which the people who don’t know each other or know each other and don’t like each other develop some (usually-grudging) respect for one another and begin to bond? This aspect of the movie is not just unimaginative and tedious; it is so insincere and condescending that it is affirmatively unpleasant. And then, to add insult to injury, the movie indulges in that most unjustifiable of offenses — the mini-retrospective flashback of purported highlights to re-remind us of how hollow it all really is.

It’s a shame to see the beautiful and talented Nia Long, most recently so impressive in her brief role in Alfie given so little to do — and forced to sport such an awful hairdo. Ice Cube seems to enjoy his interaction with his young co-stars but never seems fully engaged. Even with the voice of Tracey Morgan, the talking Satchel Paige bobblehead is tiresome. The performer who comes across the best is Aleisha Allen (of School of Rock), who has a fresh and appealing presence.

Parents should know that the movie has quite a bit of crude humor and some strong language for a PG. There is a lot of comic cartoon-style violence, including hits in the crotch, played for comedy. Some viewers may be upset by brief shots of a dead deer. And some may be disturbed by the portrayal of absent fathers.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Kevin and Lindsey tried to sabotage her dates and what made Nick begin to feel some sympathy and respect for the children. They may also want to talk about some of their own car trips and what kinds of things families can do to make sure that the trips are enjoyable for everyone. Families should also take a look at Satchel Paige‘s famous rules for staying young:

Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society — the social ramble ain’t restful.

Avoid running at all times.

And don’t look back — something might be gaining on you.

Families with older children who enjoy this movie will also enjoy seeing Nia Long in Big Mama’s House, Aleisha Allen in School of Rock and Ice Cube in Barbershop (all PG-13). Mature audiences will enjoy seeing him in the R-rated Three Kings and Boyz N the Hood.

White Noise

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Remember in Poltergeist when the little blonde girl was talking to the television broadcasting only that snowy nothingness they used to show when there was nothing on the air back in the days before 24/7 programming? And then she turned to her mother and said in her sweet little-girl voice, “They’re here!” Well, there was more deliciously creepy terror in that one moment than in all of “White Noise,” a barkingly dumb would-be thriller about the dead communicating with the living through…appliances.

Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, blissfully married to such a completely beautiful and perfect and loving (and newly pregnant) woman (Chandra West) that you know she’ll be toast within fifteen minutes after we meet her. Sure enough, after a half-heard “I love you” as she drives away and an incomplete voicemail, she disappears. Her body is found sometime later and it appears that after a car crash, she was severely wounded and unable to save herself after falling into the river.

Jonathan notices that a man has been following him. The man says he has been receiving messages from Jonathan’s wife. At first, Jonathan does not believe him, but then, well it would be a pretty short movie if he was not convinced quickly so that the real story can get going — about how he starts to get messages from people who aren’t actually dead yet and how all of this meddling with powers he does not understand is deeply upsetting to, well, the powers he does not understand.

Okay, so the story is not the point. This is all about the thrill ride. The problem is that it’s just not that thrilling.

Every would-be surprise is telegraphed in advance with the most venerable and uninspired of movie cliches, everything that has been done to, um, death over and over and over and then successfully parodied and ridiculed to death in movies from Scream to Scary Movie.

The camera closes in tight on someone, so we know something is happening just outside the frame. The music builds and we know something bad is about to happen. Someone promises not to leave and then he does and…something bad happens. And of course the secret hideout is all drippy exposed beams and sputtering lights. Yawn.

This isn’t an especially bad movie. It just isn’t an especially good one. Keaton’s underwritten part doesn’t give him much to do beyond barking at the television and looking bereft, but West makes a lovely impression in her brief role as his late wife. She is supposed to be a writer whose latest book is called “The Eternal Wait.” As I checked my watch to see how much longer the movie was going to go on, I felt that could have been the title of the movie.

Parents should know that the movie is a thriller with an overall theme that may be disturbing to some family members. There are brief grisly images and references to violence and some scary (but well within PG-13-range) surprises. A character attempts suicide and others are killed, including one who is shot. There is brief strong language and brief drinking. The movie contains a reference to “an earthquake in India” that may be upsetting due to current events. And according to this movie, only white, middle class people communicate with each other after death.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other ghost stories like Ghost, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist. Dragonfly and The Mothman Prophecies have similar themes but are not as effective. They might also want to learn more about EVP.

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